The volcanic island of Nisyros is one of the smallest in the Dodecanese and is located halfway between Kos e Tilos, a few miles from the Turkish coast. It is often visited on a day trip from Kos or Tilos, but it deserves much more (in hindsight I would have stayed at least 2-3 days!). The island is mountainous, but in the center it is actually empty, carved out by a huge crater with several chimneys and cones still smoking. Nisyros volcano is the main attraction of the island (it is the most recent active volcano in Greece), but there are also many other interesting things to see. Surely Mandhraki, the largest town, dominated by the cyclopean walls of Paleokastro that date back to the fourteenth century BC (!!), but also the beautiful villages of Nikia and Emborios. The beaches are few and mostly black sand, but they are very suggestive. But let's see together what are all the things not to be missed.
How to reach Nisyros
Nisyros has no airport and can only be reached by ferry from nearby islands and Piraeus (Athens). The most frequent connections are from Kos, both from the locality of Kardamena (the closest point) that from Kos Town. In both cases you can use the ferries of the organized excursions even if you decide to explore the island independently (which I highly recommend!). Normally the organized excursions depart at 9:30 am and return at 16-16:30 pm, but on some days there is also a ferry after 18 pm. leave at 9:30 and return after 18, so you can see almost everything. The cost of the ticket is 16 euros round trip.
How to get around Nisyros
If you decide to explore Nisyros on your own you will need to rent a moped, quad or car. I hired a car and, with the heat it was, it was undoubtedly the best choice I could have made! There are at least a couple of rentals in the Mandhraki marina. For safety, I booked it by phone one day before from Manos Rent a Car (+302242031029) and I paid 50 euros for the whole day (+10 euros for petrol).
What to see in Nisyros
Mandhraki and Paleokastro
By ferry you will arrive in the port of Mandhraki, the main town of Nisyros. From the port, just walk for 5 'and you will reach the city center, a melting pot of squares and alleys with the classic whitewashed buildings. There is the seafront promenade with several bars and trattorias, but the best part is inside and up. In fact, at the western end of Mandhraki there is a large cliff dominated by the ancient Castle of the Knights (whose maximum splendor was in the 400th century). Today it cannot be accessed, but you can instead go up along the road that leads to Panayia Spiliani Monastery. Through another path, which climbs behind the center, with a 20 'walk you can instead reach the impressive one fortezza Paleokastro, an incredible archaeological site! In fact, in front of your eyes you will have the cyclopean walls still intact of the ancient city that date back to the fourteenth century BC (they are 3 meters thick!). They are really impressive! From here you can enjoy a wonderful view of the sea and the town. Walking along the seafront, on the other hand, a pleasant pedestrian path leads to the Hokhlaki black pebble beach. If you have time, also visit the brand new Archaeological Museum located in the center of the town which exhibits treasures and artifacts from the island from prehistoric times to the post-Byzantine period.
Pali ed Emborios
The only asphalted road that starts from Mandhraki runs along the sea for a few kilometers until it reaches pali, a small fishing village with a marina, a sheltered dark sand beach and several taverns to eat fresh fish (it's the best place on the island for that). Going up the slopes of the volcano, before descending into the crater you will pass through the village of Emborios. Once abandoned (after being destroyed by several earthquakes, including recent ones), it is now being restored and there are several houses and a couple of very nice taverns. Emborios is located right on the edge of the caldera and, if you feel like walking, from here you can reach the craters below in 15-20 '(in August, with the scorching heat it is obviously more than not recommended!).
Nisyros Volcano: visit the central crater
From Emborios there is the road that goes down to crater collapsed due to two major eruptions that occurred 55000 and 45000 years ago. Nisyros volcano is the most recent active volcano in Greece and its oldest rocks date back no more than 150.000 years ago. Inside the caldera there are actually several ashy cones and craters from which sulphurous vapors escape. To access the central crater you have to pay 3 euros in the kiosk located in the parking lot. The crater, called Stefanos, it is impressive and it is possible to go down through a path, but I advise you to stay a short time because the sulphurous vapors are not exactly the best (then in my opinion it is more beautiful to see it from above). The landscape inside the caldera, however, is spectacular, it reminded me a bit of California's Death Valley. Please note that groups arriving here on organized excursions are dropped off at the volcano between 10:30 am and lunchtime so if you can, keep the volcano tour for the afternoon if you can.
Nikia and Avlaki
If, from the Emborios road, you do not go down to the volcano but continue straight you will reach the other side of the caldera where the Nikia village. From here you will have beautiful views of the volcano and the island of Tilos. Enter the village up to the beautiful square called Porta which overlooks a small church and two bars. Also from Nikia there is a path that descends to the crater in about 45 '. Nikia is a really nice little village that deserves to be seen. At the beginning of the village there is also the Volcanological museum. The road ends on the sea in the locality of Avlaki; after about 15 'of curves you reach a cove with a small church, a private house and a sheltered harbor with really beautiful water. If you have the patience to get here you will be more than rewarded!
The beaches of Lies and Ammos Beach
The two most beautiful beaches of Nisyros are those of Lies and Ammos, which can be reached from Pali, along the sea. The road ends with the beach of Lies, shortly after the only bar (Oasis bar, open only in summer); Lies is a beautiful gray sand beach. Walking another 15 'on foot from Lies you get to Ammos Beach, a magnificent dark sand beach with dunes, very popular with nudists and hippies. In this area of the island there are many young people to go free camping on the beach.
Where sleeping in Nisyros
- Porfyris Hotel (Mandraki): very nice hotel with pool in Mandhraki.
- Pyrgos Stone House (Emborios): holiday home in the village of Emborios, in a finely restored traditional house. Superb sea views.
You may also be interested in these other articles on Greece:
- Kos: what to see on the island of Hippocrates
- Leros (Greece): beaches and all useful information
- Mykonos (Greece): what to see and where to sleep
- Mykonos: the 10 most beautiful beaches
- What to see in Amorgos, the gem of the Cyclades
- What to see in Hydra, the car-free island of the Peloponnese
- A weekend in Athens: all the places not to be missed
- The 8 least touristy and most beautiful Greek islands
- Santorini: what to see in the most romantic island of the Cyclades